How I know I’m ready to move house

Guy spotted with a sawed off rifle in my neighbourhood yesterday. Arrested. Found in possession of drugs and other weapons.  Through the gun in the schoolyard. School goes into lockdown. 

Then receive this description in my neighbourhood watch email later in the day. 

Hoon Hotline – 13HOON (134 666). Hoon On-Line Form.

This site describes Hooning as any anti-social behaviour conducted in a motor vehicle—a car, van or motorbike—such as speeding, street racing, burnouts and playing loud music from a car stereo. Hooning includes any number of traffic offences, such as dangerous driving, careless driving…

The term can also be used to describe a person, as in, “There were a couple hoons driving down the block this arvo making noise.”



I like your accent 

People seem to respond one of two ways when they hear me talk for the first time. Either they don’t hear my accent or choose not to draw attention to it and go about their business or they zero in on the fact that I sound different and ask where I’m from. 

Note: when we run into other Americans, they all want to know exactly where we are from and proceed to identify someone else they know who lives in that area. It’s expected. 

Quite often we get told by people that they like our accents. I usually find this hilarious because, of course, in my mind I don’t have an accent. And when I lived in Wisconsin or Minnesota or Iowa, I didn’t have an accent that was noticeably different from the majority of people around me. Or maybe I did. I’m sure some people, and I guess I can think of a few students, who commented on my accent. 

This weekend we stopped at the local bakery for coffee and a croissant and the girl behind the counter noted that she liked our accents. Dan indicated that he liked hers. Her response? “Do I have an accent??” The grimace that accompanied that question was surprising. “Do I sound really bogan?” she continued. (Bogan would by synonymous with lower class). 

Just like me, in her mind she doesn’t have an accent. She believes she sounds like everyone around her. And if we point out her accent then we must be commenting on how she’s different from the standard, in this case bogan. 

But really Aussie accents are wonderful. Even though the longer we are here the less we actually hear them. 


I don’t even have to convert it to Fahrenheit

 I know that 38 is hot.   

It’s been summer finally. High humidity and high temps. We had weird lightening and skies last night – bolts radiating through oddly coloured clouds of turquoise and purple and pink. Yesterday I heard the radio host equate our weather to that of Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, which tells me only that’s it’s going to be sticky. 

So today I’m thankful for air conditioned train carriages, shade on my walk to campus and an office I don’t have to leave until 4pm. 



Things I never thought I would be doing at work

I have an interesting job. I mean, I work at a university and I help design and build and run online classes, but the day-to-day tasks I have don’t seem typical. 

For example, in the last couple months I have done the following:

  • Scoured high resolution pictures from NASA to try to find the “hermit crab” on Mars
  • Pretended to be an employer for an Australian airline in a mock job interview
  • Prompted “actors” with their lines about calculating gravity and centripetal force 
  • Researched how to create a visual tour of Outback Australia and big city Australia to help people understand the differences between rural medicine and city medicine in the Austalian healthcare system
  • Conversed with students on discussion forums dedicated to people learning English
  • Wrote fake essays to help people test assessments
  • Created attribution tables to cite images used in videos that are Creative Commons 
  • Talked about the drawbacks of tables in code and discussed alternatives
  • Reviewed ethics application procedures 
  • Watched someone drop a stuffed bunny with a parachute attached from a cherry picker
  • Helped someone take video of a book being dropped in the grass
  • Copy-pasted the same lines of code over and over to fix a problem in a course
  • Skyped with someone in the US about how to handle and prepare for trolls in courses

I guess it’s nice to be doing something different every day. 


Just a list

It’s a brand new year. Time for new goals, which means making some sort of attempt to update this thing occasionally.  No guarantees. I’ve downloaded the WordPress app to my phone so I can write on the train in the way home. 

  • I’ve been back at work this entire week after only 10 days off (25 December – 3 January). The true disappointment of Christmas was that we didn’t get to the beach at all. The weather just didn’t cooperate. There was rain, cool weather and wind. There’s nothing fun about going to the beach when it’s windy. All that sand pelting you can be quite annoying and frustrating. This weekend is looking good for the beach though, so we will cross our fingers for sun and 30 degrees. 
  • This week I was reminded of this piece of writing, and it was a good reminder. 
  • I don’t gamble, but this week I couldn’t stop laughing about the fact that two of my office colleagues and I created a syndicate and bought Powerball tickets. The idea of a syndicate….like we’re organised crime or something….kept me entertained. We did not win. 
  • We went to Korea in October. It was gorgeous and fun and interesting and a great holiday.               
  • This is the last train station on my commute to work.  
  • In this new year I’m trying to read a poem a day, listen to more podcasts on the way to work (Limetown, Serial season 2, As It Happens, Love and Radio, Lore) and drink more good coffee. 
  • We are also contemplating buying a house and getting out of our neighbourhood. It’s getting worse and more units are going in behind us. I’m lucky I work all day so I don’t hear the crazy, but poor Dan isn’t as lucky. 

Here’s to hoping for more than one post this year. 


Everything good on tv is aired on Monday morning

Today at lunch one of my coworkers lamented the fact that all major television events are shown on Monday mornings while we are at work. She was referring to the fact that here in Australia we (currently) live somewhere around 15 hours ahead of the US, and, therefore, shows like the Oscars or the Super Bowl are aired on “free-to-air” tv while we are at work.  She was referring more to award shows than sporting events, but for me it’s more about sport than about what a celebrity is wearing.

And that’s why we have a dvr.

Kudos to Dan for practicing good self-control when it comes to watching these events (pretty much Packer games). During football season, Dan sets the dvr to record the two games that are broadcast on Monday morning starting at 3am and 6am, and most of the time we watch a game sometime during the week or we save them until Sunday afternoon.

Recording tv is good because we can skip all the commercials, down time because of injuries or colour commentary. And tonight we are watching the Super Bowl, but I should note that we are fast forwarding through the commercials because they are showing Aussie commercials for Holdens and Woolies and bad Aussie reality shows instead of the traditional Super Bowl commercials.

(Please note that Dan just indicated that he said it would be okay for me to interview him for this “story”.)

Dan: I’m here so I don’t get fined.

Me: What?

Dan: I’m here so I don’t get fined.

Me: ???

Dan: Anyone who follows the NFL would know what I mean.

Me: ???

Dan: That’s what Marshawn Lynch has been saying all week in his press conferences.

Me: Okay.

Dan: You all know why I’m here.

Me: Apparently this so-called interview is pretty much you quoting Lynch?

Dan: Maybe I’m not a good interview.

Me: I’m going to fine you.

Dan: Well, if you want to go with international flavour, you could say that Sir Paul McCartney is there.

Me: Great.

It’s just a barrel of laughs here at the Finn household.

Dan: (blah blah blah suggested revisions to my writing blah blah blah)

Me: (audible eye roll)

Dan: I’m going to have popcorn now.

Me: Wonderful. Anything else you want to say?

Dan: (mouth full of popcorn) No.

Aside from this delightful exchange, nothing much is going on around here. It’s summer. It’s been hot, so we’ve had the air on a bit and have hit the beach on Sunday afternoons after church. Work has been too busy as I begin prepping not one but two new courses for the year as well as helping out on a couple others.

I go to meetings, I ride the train, I ride the bus, I use my umbrella when there’s a downpour, I swim in our friends’ new pool, I bake desserts twice a week to bring to our friends’ house on Friday nights and to bring to church on Sundays, I do laundry and hang it out on the line, I shut the windows when my neighbour’s dog starts barking after being left in the garage when they leave the house, and I look at your pictures online of snowstorms and winter and late starts and I realise that I’m quite happy to be here in Australia even though I’m currently watching the Super Bowl hours after it finished and I already know who won.


PS – I’m doing the photo-a-day challenge for the year over on Instagram if you want to see my pictures.

It’s been a while

For the past few months I’ve been rather busy. I mean, I haven’t been so busy that I couldn’t post here, but when I get home from work at the end of the day that last thing I want to do is sit in front of my computer and write.

What have I been up to?

1. Sending emails that go out to 13,000 people

The job I started in June involves designing free, online courses that are taken by thousands of people around the world. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? If you read the Chronicle of Higher Ed, you have. I design MOOCs (massive, open online courses) at my university through a project that was started by Harvard and MIT. The best thing about this job? I’m not the one teaching the course. I have no grading or marking to do, no prep, no work to do at home. Okay, that last bit isn’t entirely true. There were many weekends that I was adding code, writing transcripts, watching videos in preparation for their release later in the week, or checking quiz questions. Or solving problems that were discovered late on a Friday night. The course I was assigned to help design and develop was an anthropology course, a subject I wasn’t super interested in, but I really enjoyed it. I learned quite a bit about indigenous people in Australia, refugees in Malaysia, water scarcity in the Atacama Desert in Chile, and material culture in Cuba. The stuff was fascinating. The faculty member I worked with gave me lots of freedom to add what needed to be added to the course. This involved writing the emails that went out to all of the students every Monday. But let me tell you that it’s a bit stressful to hit send on an email that’s going to go out to over 13,000 people. I would try to write the email Sunday night, send it to the faculty member for feedback, test the email to make sure all the hyperlinks worked, and then finally hit send and hope that I hadn’t made a typo or included a broken link. But now the course is over, and I’m just starting to look at the data for analysis and report writing. Work is slowing down a bit, but I’m already starting work on the next course (one on climate change) and prepping for some other projects.

2. Loving the people I work with

Seriously. There’s a core group of us who work in the The Back Room: three media specialists for film editing, recording, and animation and four learning designers (including me). We also have a fantastic project manager, a data analyst, faculty research fellows, a data czar, and other very inquisitive and interesting people in our work space. It’s really the best combination of people who are laid back and crazy smart. On the days when we have Skype meetings with the office at Harvard I have to pinch myself because it’s so hard to believe that I get to interact with these people.

3. Making friends on the train

When I tell people about this, they think I’m crazy. Although I have talked to the sleepy guy a couple times, usually to tell him we are at his stop, I chatted up the cop about a month ago. We had a great talk about the legal system in Australia and the upcoming G20 summit that starts this week. A couple weeks later, I sat across from him and his wife and we all chatted again. I know I shouldn’t be chatting so much in the quiet carriage on the train, but I figure if I’m chatting with a cop no one will give us a hard time.

4. Taking a holiday

I’m saving most of this for another post actually, but I might as well preview it in this one. Dan and I took a week long holiday at the Whitsunday Islands. This involved hiring a car and driving 13 hours north past the Tropic of Capricorn to some of the most blue waters and white sandy beaches you have ever seen. It was the first real vacation we’ve had since coming here, and Dan needed that time off. Our holiday involved lots of pool and beach time, lots of reading, and that’s about it. It was exactly the kind of vacation we like. We also had a couple minor adventures including a helicopter ride to a secluded island, a boat trip to Whitehaven Beach, and a drive up the coast a bit more to take our chances swimming even though there were signs posted to watch out for stingers (jellyfish). No worries – we made it out alive.

I’ll leave you with a picture of the blue skies and bluer waters that we woke up to on holiday (and the Woolies in the bottom left corner).

Airlie Beach